Hong Kong domestic helpers' monthly wage up 3 percent: survey

Ng Kang-chung, South China Morning Post

Posted at Sep 12 2019 09:50 AM

A junk boat passes the skyline as seen from the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront in Hong Kong, China, Aug. 27, 2019. Kai Pfaffenbach, Reuters

Domestic helpers in Southern district are paid about 13 percent more than those whose employers live in Wong Tai Sin, according to the latest survey of maid salaries across Hong Kong.

The wage findings, released on Wednesday, showed a higher demand for domestic helpers in Wan Chai and Sai Kung, where average salaries were up by 9.6 percent and 7.1 percent respectively from a year ago.

The annual survey, conducted by HelperChoice " an online platform that matches families with domestic helpers " announced its research as the government prepares its yearly review of foreign maids' minimum pay to be released later this month.

The current minimum wage is HK$4,520 (US$576) a month.

Based on some 30,000 job advertisements posted between August 2018 and August 2019, HelperChoice found that foreign maids in Hong Kong were paid a monthly average of HK$4,945, a 3 percent increase from the last survey.

The top-paying districts were Southern, Wan Chai, Central and Western, Sai Kung, and Islands, where the average pay was HK$5,148 per month. The survey found two employers in these areas who paid as much as HK$10,000 a month.

The districts with the lowest salaries were Wong Tai Sin, Kwun Tong, Kwai Tsing, Tsuen Wan, and Kowloon City. Families in these districts paid an average wage of HK$4,696 " only HK$176 above the minimum level allowed by the government.

Hong Kong requires foreign domestic helpers to live with their employers, who must provide free accommodation, food and medical expenses.

"It is by sheer luck for a foreign domestic helper to be able to land a job at a generous family," said Sringatin, chair of the Indonesia Migrant Workers Union. "We usually look for jobs through agents and it is difficult for us to specify that we have to work for a family living in a wealthy area."

She added: "It also depends on individuals. Rich people are not necessarily more generous."

Lau Ka-mei, of the Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Union, said salary disparities between districts indicated the supply and demand in those areas.

"In the past, mostly rich people would hire foreign domestic helpers. But nowadays, the demand from lower middle class families is also very big. So, those employers in better-off districts might have to offer more to attract workers."

Hong Kong has been bringing in foreign maids since the 1970s. At present, there are about 390,000 foreign maids in Hong Kong, mainly from the Philippines and Indonesia.

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